In one of the most exciting races so far of the 2013 FIS Alpine World Championships, Maria Hoefl-Riesch came from joint fourth after the Downhill section to capture her second World Championship Gold medal, fourth medal in all. Tina Maze managed to recover her run enough to take second behind the German with Niki Hosp producing the fastest slalom section to climb up from ninth after the Downhill to capture the host nation’s first medal of the championships. With four Austrians in the top six finishers, the morale of the host nation certainly rose after the race.
With just two tenths of a second having seperated the top five racers after the Downhill section of the two run race, Hoefl-Riesch had the advantage of knowing that the other four fast racers were still to go. Having admitted that she had suffered with mental problems with her racing recently, Hoefl-Riesch declined the idea of her husband, Marcus Hoefl, and used her experience to put that fact that she had not finished her last two slalom World Cup races in Flachau (where she had been leading after the first run) and Maribor, out of her head.
By the time she crossed the lead, she was happy to see that she was leading but felt that it would not be enough to win, “maybe good enough for a medal, bit not the Gold,” she explained. Â In the finish Hoefl-Riesch had a lead of exactly a second over the Austrian Hosp. Before the German had taken the lead, the host nation held positions 1, 2 and 3. If only the race had finished then, it would have sent the crowd into raptures. Â You had to feel for Michi Kirchgasser as she had come down from 16th spot in the Downhill to take the lead. Her fellow Austrian then pushed her off the top step yet despite there still being a lot of racers to go, you felt she was in with a chance of taking a medal. Time would tell.
When Lara Gut crashed out on the second run, it was down to three racers left. Five hundredths separated the leading three yet Hoefl-Riesh was in the finish. She had the time to beat. Interestingly two years ago Fenninger and Maze had also been 1 and 2 in Garmisch and there was certainly a feeling of deja vu.
Lizz Goergl is a better speed skier than she is a technical skier, certainly slalom but she managed to negotiate the tough conditions and while it was not to be a podium spot, the Austrian made it four Austrians in the leading bunch. Hoefl-Riesch had a medal, but what colour would it be?
Despite Fenninger and Maze sharing the fastest time, the regulations say that Fenninger, having the lower number, would go first. Could she defend her title? Fenninger has improved so much in the last two years that she is now a genuine contender in all the racers apart from maybe the slalom. She would though not give up her title without a fight. Yet just before the first split, disaster. She straddled. Afterwards she explained that she had been really happy with her Downhill but when it came to the slalom, it was one of those things (or words to that effect!).
By now Hoefl-Riesch was starting to think that maybe it might just be gold that she would win. Tina Maze has been in impressive form all winter and for Hoefl-Riesch to take the win, she knew that there would have to be something wrong. The German had admitted to being too conservative and round at the top but had let the skis attack across the flats and down the final pitch. Hoefl-Riesch is the defending Olympic Slalom Champion and a World Cup winner, yet the gremlins in her head can sometimes ruin her chances she admits.
This time though it was to be Maze who lost time and when the green light disappeared, and a red one came on, Hoefl-Riesch started to believe. “When I crossed the line and saw that it was not green, I was a little upset,” explained Maze in the press conference afterwards. “Then I saw I was second so it was not too bad.” While Maze realised she had her second medal of the Championships, Austrian Michi Kirchgasser saw her dreams of a medal evapourate. Fourth place is the hardest place to be in a major event.
So Maria Hoefl-Riesch becomes the third oldest World Champion of all time in taking the gold. She admitted afterwards that this medal may just resurrect her season, one that sees her so far off the lead of the Overall. The belief that she can beat Tina Maze will be a further plus for her as well, as she admitted afterwards.
Gold for Germany, Silver for Slovenia and bronze for the Austrians!